A. Forbesi, the common sea star, are dying out in New England and possibly along the east coast. Help us figure out why and how to save them!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Starfish wasting disease is becoming a national issue!

Check this out- it seems that our starfish illness is not isolated to the east coast!  These white lesions and other symptoms these sea stars are displaying looks and sounds very similar to those we have seen in New England:


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


At the Wessel lab, we have put our research into the A. forbesi problem on hold for a while because we are waiting for a response from the grant we applied for with several other collaborators from various RI institutions.  Hopefully we will receive the grant and be able to move forward with our project and experiments with funding.

Here's an update on news from others I have been hearing.

Most people are saying the A. forbesi issue is still continuing.  Some are collecting specimens and bringing them back to their respective tanks only to watch them fall apart and/or die in front of their eyes.  Others are having issues finding any forbesi to collect.  I visited the New England aquarium in Boston, which collects its specimens from the Gulf of Maine area, and noted that each tank that was labelled as holding forbesi (three in total) had a distinct absence of any forbesi, which leads me to make the educated guess that the forbesi are not doing so hot in that area, either in the ocean or once placed in the tanks.

One person has had better luck.  Mark Hall of Biomes Center in North Kingstown, RI has reported the following information.
  • In January last year, Mark's forbesi were all dying in his tanks.  He had a pathologist look at them and run some tests, but found nothing.
  • Most of Mark's forbesi did die last year, but a few survived.  These surviving forbesi have been one of the healthiest populations he has ever seen.  He believes that these forbesi that survived may have had an immunity to whatever was ailing them, which is why they are now so healthy.
  • Recently (this fall/winter) Mark has had better success with both collecting and caring for his A. forbesi.  They are abundant in the areas he collects them from around Rhode Island and he now has a flourishing population of at least 20 specimens, all in good condition and showing no signs of "wasting disease."
See http://www.biomescenter.com/ for more about Mark's Biomes Center.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

P. Miniata

P. miniata:

Unfortunately, soon after the health of the p. miniata deteriorated as well.  It remains to be seen whether the forbesi did in fact “infect” the miniata with their “disease,” but we will keep them separate from now on.

Next:  collect more and leave at GSO and in a separate tank from the miniata at Brown

My A. forbesi: Observations on 6/19

The last starfish, which had previously been missing, reappeared in the tank with a detached arm and the beginnings of symptoms similar to the other A. forbesi
Several of the P. Miniata starfish-both female and male-had begun displaying symptoms similar to the sick forbesi-removed sick ones form tank
White covering developing on arms
Insides coming out of arms and from stomach
Emailed Ed Baker with picture of forbesi arms with innards coming out and asked to compare to his memory of the forbesi that died in the GSO water table last year

My A. forbesi: observations on 6/14

Checked starfish; found the one that had been missing
One, over the past few days, slowly shed its arms and died, but had no symptoms of the "disease“
The one that had been missing now has some spines missing, and every spine is surrounded with the white dots, which are now even scattered throughout the flesh in between the spines
Plans for A. forbesi:  take the white spots and look at them under a microscope; control = spines/flesh without the spots
Unfortunately on 6/16 the starfish disappeared again and was later found dead in the filter L so I now need to collect some more to do this experiment

My A. forbesi: the malady

Of the two brown starfish observed on 6/6, one had an interesting phenomenon:  on the "spikes," some were developing a strange gel-like covering and were easier to scrape off, exposing the inside of the starfish
The spikes that were beginning to develop the gelly-like substance had a series of tiny bright white spots around the radial edges of the spike situated on the brown flesh in between the spikes
These gel-covered spikes were observed in clusters along the arms, more often at the most distal parts and the most proximal parts than the middle length of the arms
The other brown starfish had a few of these “spotted” spikes, but were more randomly spaced with only a few clusters at the tips of a couple of the arms

My A. forbesi: Observations on 6/6

When I took the sick starfish from the tank today, it was ostracized in the opposite corner of the tank form the other three, which were close to each other on the other side and bottom
When all the detached arms are placed together, they attempt to move away from one another
Two of the remaining starfish are browner than the other (which is more purple and orange
The purpley starfish looked completely normal.